Austrian study highlights EMS differences

EMAS used more for image, external relations; ISO 14001 for business reasons, says ministry

Public funding aimed at encouraging widespread adoption of environmental management systems (EMS) could be targeted at differentiating and highlighting particular advantages of the two most common ones instead of trying to harmonise them, according to a study by the Austrian environment ministry.

The report reviews four years' experience with EMS by analysing the responses of 113 Austrian organisations through detailed interviews with managers in June and July this year. The questions were designed to throw light on the benefits and effectiveness of EMS, ecological effectiveness and economic efficiency, ease of integration with existing management systems, the decision process when an EMS is introduced and the business decision to select ISO 14001 or EMAS. The authors say the answers to these questions will "characterise development of the contest between the two systems in years to come".

The study identifies striking differences in companies' main objectives in opting for EMAS registration or for ISO 14001 certification. Nearly one third of EMAS registered respondents gave external communications as their top aim closely followed by image and cost savings. On the other hand, nearly 30% of ISO 14001 certified companies were motivated by cost savings and just over 15% each by "internal information" and image respectively. The importance of external communications and image to companies with EMAS is further illustrated by the 55% response rate from these companies to the survey compared with only 40% for ISO 14001 companies, the report says.

While ISO 14001 certified companies are less concerned than EMAS registrants about external communications with fewer than 10% of respondents giving this as an important aim, the impetus for them considering an environmental management system at all is most likely to come from their customers or suppliers. In contrast, EMAS organisations are most likely to embark on registration as a result of discussion with trade associations, verifiers and consultants.

Austria has almost equal numbers of ISO certifications and EMAS registrations (ENDS Daily 26 November) and the second highest per capita level of EMS in the EU after Germany.

Follow Up:
Austrian environment ministry, tel: +43 1 515 220. Reference: "Analysis of Environmental Management Systems" (in German).

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